In early February I was struggling. I simultaneously loved and hated life in Houston and I was absolutely petrified of what God would call me to do this coming school year.
I loved my time at Alief Hastings High School. I love the teachers I worked with. I love my sophomores. I never questioned whether I was valued – it was always clear that I was. (I sometimes questioned whether I was loved but even my more hesitant students came around by the end of my time there.) When I was at school, I felt like I could stay in Houston for the rest of my life.
The struggle entered the picture when I was not at school. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of Houston, in population and in geography. I tried going to Bible study at my parish but the drive on top of the two-hour study turned out to be more stressful than fun, so I quickly let that go. This left me without a strong faith community. I have realized upon reflection that some part of me forgot that it took years to build the support I had at Newman and when I failed to find that at my parish I broke my own heart.
The dichotomy of emotions had me incredibly confused. As my friends are aware, there was a time when I was convicted that I would never student teach in Houston. When I started to ask God to call me home to Nebraska, I was terrified that He would change my mind again. Even though I knew I was meant to be in Houston, even though I knew that He had changed my mind for the better, I somehow feared that changing my mind to want to stay would be a change for the worse.
With more logic than prayer, I decided to look for a job at home first. Since Texas starts their hiring process later then Nebraska it was easy to keep Texas as a back-up plan. I was looking for districts in Nebraska that would be comparable to Alief, where I student taught. Alief is incredibly diverse – less than 5% of students are white and more than 80% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. If I was going to come home, my best chances for cultural familiarity would be Omaha or Lincoln Public Schools.
In March, I applied to Lincoln and started the interview process before I finished my OPS application. I was not too worried, because I had decided, outside of prayer, that LPS is where I wanted to be.
A few days after receiving news that I did not get the position at a Lincoln high school that I interviewed for, I got another email from the district. I called the office and was asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a middle school. In my extreme eloquence, I said, “ummm…. Sure.” I am fairly certain “sure” sounded more like a question than a statement, but in the moment between the question and agreeing to the interview I remember thinking to myself, “well, at the very least it’s interview practice and you probably shouldn’t say no to that Michelle.”
Of the multiple long-distance interviews I did, the middle school interview is the only one that used Skype instead of just a phone call. The ladies that interviewed me were more conversational that I had otherwise experienced, which helped me relax. Now let me tell you, I have a terrible habit of talking myself around questions to the point that sometimes I forget what I am supposed to be answering (my spiritual director can confirm this; sorry Father!) but during this interview I was the opposite. I answered right out of the gate and defended each answer with experience. After the interview ended, I was scared at how confident I felt. What if they offered me the job?
In an effort to avoid the possibility of middle school and the fact that I had only heard from one other Lincoln high school, I finally submitted my application to Omaha.
The next morning, Dawes Middle School offered me a job teaching seventh grade English. As I drove to adoration that night, I could not comprehend the peace in my heart. I almost turned around and just went home because I felt so sure that I already knew what that peace meant, but I went to adoration anyway. On the drive home, I could not stop giggling and saying to myself, “oh my gosh I am going teach middle school. . . Jesus, what are you doing to me?! . . . middle school. . .” I was baffled to say the least. I never saw myself as a middle school teacher. What had Jesus done to my heart in that short week?!
As I sit here writing about that episode of what I call “Jesus giggles,” I find myself beaming with joy all over again.
Today, I got the keys to my classroom and I am sitting in my wonderful one-bedroom apartment in Lincoln that I moved into this past weekend. Folks, life is getting real. I have so many reasons to be stressed about school starting in just four short weeks, but right now, as I look back at the journey that led me to Dawes, I cannot believe how blessed I am.